I will be teaching Metalsmithing at the local arts center starting
this summer. The classes will be for junior high and high school
aged youth. Do any of you have suggestions for some simple beginner
projects? The classes are 3 hours a day for 5 days. I am a little
nervous since I have not taught metals before, and there will
probably be mixed skill levels. Thanks in advance!
For what its worth, there are some things you should not do. for
example, I stood in for our local prep school when their carpentry
teacher left and wasnt immediatrely replaced.
Dont have the students each do something different!! its a
nightmare. They should all do the same thing. The 1st term i was
effectively doing all the work|!| One boy Wanted to build jumps for
his sisters pony, another wanted to make a bedside table. A fair lass
of 10 anted to make a dolls house. She was good!!.
So the projects did get finished, with 99% of the work being done by
me. Out of the 10 students only 1 could saw strait.
The second term they all had to make a tea pot stand. No ifs or
As to metal work, metal smithing? its a tall order. I suggest you
use copper or aluminium, rod or tube, and stick to only hammer and
file work. No brazing or polishing. all too hazurdous.
you need to read what our Australian smith richard Hopkins has done
with street kids.
thats the way to go.
also accept no responsibility for any accidents!.
I always started kids out with cutting silhouettes out of white or
yellow brass. It teaches sawing and filing and to finish it, they can
drill a hole, attach a jump ring and make a pendant. Later on they
can learn to solder findings on to the back to make tack pins. Once
they can use the saw, they can pierce their names onto a dog tag
shape for a key ring.
Start looking for a lot of copper wire. Most larger hardware stores
sell it by the foot in 4 - 16 gauge solid. Good luck. Rob
Marysa, go through the Orchid Archives, looking for topics like
"Workshop for Girl Scout Troop," or "Teaching a Teen Class." People
have sent in some good ideas.
How to Design and plan out the steps needed in creating a piece and
wire wrapping basics. You can offer the beginners 2 options for
their designs the advanced can create their own design.
Heshi necklace with findings. more advanced can add a pendent or
metal focal, maybe just a metal wrapped bead with an easy solder
join on it that you teach them to make.
How to do a basic pendent with copper wire and leather thong and
findings using sea stones or sea glass.
Cold connection focal piece for a necklace or bracelet with
stamping, patina, and rivets? A basic ring for soldering - more
advanced can add stone. Less advanced can stamp or a rivet a disc or
disc flower on it.
You could teach salt water etching and LOS patina for a design of
Metal clay can offer some easy construction possibilities for last
project. A million possibilities!!!!
Any of these can be made more difficult or simple
Good idea to standardize the project. As far as "no brazing or
polishing"...you'd have to check with your school as to rules and
Although in the 60's in high school I worked on a six foot engine
lathe at the age of 13, I don't think kids in the US are allowed near
machinery in high school until at least 16 y/o. Possibly some small
torch soldering would be allowed at that age, but would you feel
comfortable supervising it? A personal and institutional issue.
As to polishing, hand polishing with fine emery paper and/or crocus
cloth prep and using hand felts is a good intro to polishing. No need
for wheels and machines at first. Hard to hurt yourself with a piece
of sandpaper, although someone will...
Its Marysa who has to decide what she plans for her students. Maybe
there already exists a syllabus from a previous course for the same
age group. She hasnt said.
If however, she is starting from scratch, its really up to the
place? college? to determine what the course is to achieve.
Also has she looked at the facilities offered, and do they match the
In the 1st instance the students need to have a detailed written
plan of what they are expected to do, and what tools they will get to
use over the course and during each days lesson. They need this
several days prior to the course.
Does Marysa have to do all this? Whats her time worth? Has she put
in a price for the project?
As to polishing and brazing, I mean using machiney and oxy propane
torches. Dangerous for some one who has no experience of these
tools. Thats why apprenticeships are 7 yrs.
Needs a lot of planning it seems to me.
As I recall from when my kid took a H. S. jewelry class, they worked
on 'pewter' because of cost issues and the concerns of using torches
at high temps. I sorta' stepped in and had my kid do her work in
sterling. understand that the teacher was the same as when I took
the class eons ago. He agreed tothat change since he knew me and I
funded it. How many kids get to have the same teachers as their
Judy in Kansas, where weather is now switching from chilly, wild
wind and rains to calm breezes and sunny skies. what a difference a
few hours can make.
I teach jewellery making to high school students. I teach them just
like I did with my apprentice 30 years ago. I choose who is in the
class and what we do.
Usually making rings. I use real world jewellery tools, even supply
a bench mate.
I thoroughly read the syllabus and then threw it in the garbage bin.
Some non-jewellery teacher wrote that rubbish. Six months of "Art
metal" well that will get you a long way in this trade NOT.
I am training my students to enter the trade not make cr*p. I have
seen work from students taught by a design and technology teacher
with a weekend course in blacksmithing.
Kids not happy when I told them it was rubbish. All bad, sawing,
soldering polishing etc.
My students use Argentium, lets face it ladies and gentlemen this is
the silver of the future.
My students make two of everything the school sells the best quality
piece and the students keep the other one. Keeps them focussed. Yes
it does sell. The students are always amazed that what they make is
equal to or better than the chain store jewellery. They thank me but
I tell them YOU made it not me.
all the best